Insomnia….oh that blasted, dreaded word but there you have it what’s keeping others, like me, awake at night. So what is insomnia, what does it mean exactly? In layman’s terms…. You can’t sleep. More officially it means….the difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning. Although it can occur at any age it is especially common in the elderly. Most of the time it is a side effect of one of several different sleep, medical or psychiatric disorders. 

So where do you fall into place? I have insomnia due to a symptom of my bipolar disorder. It keeps me up at odd hours. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at all. Sometimes I go to sleep early just to wake up every two hours. Sometimes I go to sleep at a decent hour and wake up four hours later wide awake, and that is where we find ourselves this morning. I have been on many different sleep medications from lunesta, ambian to restoril. Nothing has ever worked. Either the side effects were too bad or it took so big a dose for it to actually work that there was a danger of actually overdosing. So medication was out the window. Until they put me on a new antipsychotic called Haldol. It is very sedating. For the first 3 weeks it put me to sleep like a champ. Then it just quit working (for sleep at least). Now I’m back to my old routine of sleep when I can because I never know when I’ll be able to again.

There are many reasons why I can’t sleep at night but the most common is racing thoughts. When I’m just lying in bed and a billion and one thoughts are just speeding thru my head all at once. Or I’m switching from one thought to another faster than flipping a light switch on and off. Or there are the times when I can pick one thought and just dwell on it and really run it in the ground until there is nothing left of it, until I’ve twisted and turned it into something completely unrecognizable. And then there are the worried thoughts. Those will definitely keep me up nights or even wake me up in the middle of the night and then there is no going back to sleep.

A lot of my friends are going thru the same scenario’s I am. We all deal with things differently but we experience the same things. In a lot of the support groups I belong to I hear the same things over and over again. “I can’t sleep….” “….racing thoughts” “….worried”. 

Insomnia is very common in the psychiatric world. My daughter, who is also bipolar, also suffers from insomnia. There are nights where despite her best efforts (and some melatonin) she still can’t get any rest. In the beginning, when she was younger and first started having trouble sleeping I could give her a Benadryl and she could go to sleep. Now three years later, that has become a thing of the past. At first when the Benadryl quit working a dose of melatonin would put her right to sleep. But now a double dose of melatonin and she’s still up half the night before she finally crashes. But when she does crash, she crashes hard. A bomb could go off near that girls head, good luck getting her to move. That’s the thing usually when we finally crash (and eventually we all will at some point because it will eventually catch up to us all) we are usually down for the count so to speak.

So what’s the solution for insomnia? Honestly, there isn’t one. Get lots of rest when you can get it because you’re going to need it. You never know when you’re going to have a spell of insomnia and when you’re going to be able to sleep again. Pills? Yeah, they help. IF you can find the magic one that works for you but be careful. Sleeping pills come with a lot of major side effects. Be sure you read the warnings and pay attention to them. Don’t take them lightly or you may end up dancing naked in your front yard under the full moon.

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